Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pain & Inches

As I sit here barely able to move (or breathe) with a very painful left ribcage, I can't help but think back to Moshe's postgame comments about our devastating loss about how we were a few inches from winning the game - which we lost 31-6. When we were in Los Angeles recently, Serach and I watched the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (not as bad as people say it is), and there was a particularly good scene where Brad Pitt is describing a sequence of events. He shows how if not for numerous individual incidents occurring in perfect sequence, then the penultimate car accident could not have happened as it did.

Though there are times in life, or in football, where one can point to a particular event and call it a turning point, there are often so many other small differences that truly led to that event happening in the first place. (I touched on this in regards to football a number of years ago.) One of the interceptions we threw today in the endzone was caused by a sequence of events including me chipping their defensive lineman, stumbling slightly in the mud before taking one step too many forward before turning to look for the ball, not hearing the QB calling me, seeing the ball a half-second or so too late, slipping again slightly as I tried to pull it out of the air, that slight beat off from my extra step before messing me up, causing me to bobble the ball rather than catch it smoothly, resulting ultimately in it tipping off my hands, off a teammate's diving attempt in the endzone, and being snatched by an opposing safety at the goal line before I could recover. In short: "My bad", and instinctively to those who play the game, understood as to exactly what went wrong; but to a passive observer, impossible to understand unless it were slowed down enough for them to grasp all the details. If one were to call that play a turning point, it would be true in the broader sense; it would be true as well, however, to point to that extra step as the real turning point.

What football players do in practice each week, and what we did for a few minutes before today's game, is brilliance: Working on those little aspects of a game, of a play, of a block, of a route, of a coverage. By understanding the nuances and perfecting those as well as one can, it automatically results in better performance in real situations. It is not that there is anything new necessarily in practice (though sometimes there is), or that they are learning something new or doing something better (though sometimes they are). It is about turning learned reactions into instinctive ones; turning concepts into reality by repetition. "Knowing something" is not the same as doing something, and even doing something many times does not mean you can't do it better the next time.

Those who know me know that I like to say that it is the little things in life that matter. This is not to minimize the big things in life, which are called so with good reason, but because it is the little things that are what eventually push those big things. The difference between a touchdown and an interception may be just a single extra step; the difference between someone viewing you positively or negatively may be as simple as whether you were smiling brightly the first time you met one another. Focusing on the details of life (without getting caught up in the details, as balance is always key) can assist a person as much as it creates a difference in a football team. We may have lost 31-6 this week, but we were all aware of how few inches we were from winning this football game - and more importantly, we know what aspects we need to work on to be better next time, and we're confident we can succeed. Understanding those little things in life - just as in football - can make all the difference.

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